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DRIVING

7 things to know about driving in Austria this summer

Taking a summer road trip through Austria is always fun, just make sure that you know what to expect before hitting Austrian roads this summer.

7 things to know about driving in Austria this summer
Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash

Busy weekends

Being stuck in traffic on a hot day is frustrating, but you can avoid busy times on Austrian roads with the dedicated traffic calendar (Staukalender) by the Austrian Automobile, Motorcycle and Touring Club (ÖAMTC)

Every year, the ÖAMTC collects details about public holidays, planned construction work, border controls and events to help motorists better plan their trips and make changes to an itinerary.

Users can also click on a specific date to be redirected to the ÖAMTC route planner for further details about traffic, parking spots and nearby petrol stations along a route.

Both the traffic calendar and the route planner are available on desktop or via the ÖAMTC app.

READ MORE: What is Austria’s ‘traffic calendar’ and how can it help me save time?

High fuel prices

Just in case anyone is unaware, fuel is very expensive right now, which means the days of a cheap road trip in Austria are over (for the foreseeable future, anyway).

Thankfully, the ÖAMTC has another useful app to help motorists find the cheapest fuel prices in their area, or wherever they are travelling in Austria.

In the app, users can search by petrol or diesel (depending on their vehicle) to view details of current prices at petrol stations in the selected area.

Additionally, for anyone travelling through Austria and into neighbouring countries, like Italy or Slovenia, it could be worth waiting to fill up the car until after crossing the border. 

The cost of fuel is currently significantly cheaper in many other countries outside of Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Austria this summer

Vignette

In order to drive on Austria’s motorways you need a small toll sticker known as a vignette. 

While these may seem odd to some foreigners, they are absolutely essential for all cars, motorbikes and camper vans – and anyone not displaying one on a motorway or expressway risks a fine of at least €120. 

Vignettes are available at around 6,000 outlets across the country, so anyone who fails to get one will have few excuses. 

A list of outlets is available here and digital vignettes are also available online.  

Unlike the sticker, digital vignettes are affixed to the licence plate. 

High-vis vests

If you breakdown on a road in Austria and need to leave the car, it’s essential to wear a high-vis jacket in either yellow, red or orange. 

It’s also required to place a breakdown triangle near the car to alert others drivers and rescue vehicles.

Rental cars should already be equipped with this kit, but if you’re driving your own vehicle, be sure to pick up a vest and breakdown triangle before setting off. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I take the Austrian driving licence test in English?

Toll (Maut)

Despite having a vignette, some roads in Austria are also subject to a toll.

For example, it costs €38 for a car day ticket to drive along the Grossglockner High Alpine Road in the High Tauern National Park. The price for a motorbike is €28.

Other toll roads are the Brenner Pass (A13) in Tyrol, the Karawanken Tunnel that connects Austria and Slovenia, and the A26 Linz Freeway Westring in Upper Austria.

Alcohol and driving

In Austria, the legal blood alcohol level is 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood. 

Penalties for driving under the influence in Austria are severe with a fine up to €5,900, and the possibility of losing a driving licence for one year.

If in doubt, stick to the soft drinks if planning to drive in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

Police and speed traps

During the summertime, police are often out in force along Austrian roads to catch speeding drivers.

The national speed limits in the Alpine country are 50 km/hr within the city limits, 100 km/hr outside of the city limits and 130 km/hr on motorways (unless otherwise stated).

To avoid being caught out, be sure to pay attention to the speed limits when driving. But if you do get stopped by police, be prepared to pay the fine straight away.

Police in Austria will accept cash or card payments for speeding fines.

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For members

DRIVING

Everything you need to know about driving in Austria in winter

Austria is known for having long, cold winters, which can impact conditions on the roads. Here’s what you need to know about driving in Austria in the winter. From tips to make your trip smoother to the rules you need to follow.

Everything you need to know about driving in Austria in winter

Austria’s infrastructure is built for winter weather. As soon as the temperature starts to drop overnight, gritting trucks are out in force, and roads are quickly cleared of snow during winter storms.

This makes driving in Austria during the winter months so much easier, but there are a few rules to follow as well.

Here’s everything you need to know about driving in Austria in the winter.

FOR MEMBERS: Reader question: Can I take the Austrian driving licence test in English?

Winter tyres

In Austria, all cars and lorries weighing up to 3.5 tonnes must be fitted with winter tyres from November 1 to April 15 of the following year. This is to ensure drivers are prepared for wintry conditions on the roads, such as snow and ice.

A driver can be fined €35 if caught driving without winter tyres during this time. If other road users are put in danger as a result, the fine can be up to €5,000.

The law also has consequences for insurance claims in the event of an accident while driving in the winter with summer tyres. For example, if there is a crash but the driver claims it wasn’t their fault, they have to prove that the accident would have still happened even with winter tyres to avoid blame. They then have the so-called “burden of proof”. 

Also, a tyre only qualifies as an official winter tyre (or all-season tyre) if it has one of the following labels: M+S, M.S., M&S or the snowflake symbol. 

READ ALSO: Can I use my foreign driving licence in Austria?

Snow chains and spike tyres

Between November 1 and April 15, all lorries (with a maximum weight of more than 3.5 tonnes) and all buses must carry snow chains for at least two wheels.

But the snow chains should only be used when absolutely necessary. Such as when a road is covered with snow or ice.

The use of studded tyres is illegal in Austria during the months of June, July, August and September. And if you want to use them in the winter, you need to display a studded tyre sticker (Spikeaufkleber) in the rear of the vehicle.

Spike tyres are only typically fitted on industrial or agricultural vehicles, and are not often used on Austrian roads as they can damage the surface.

Removal of snow and ice from the car

In Austria, drivers are required to clear all windows of snow and ice before driving. In fact, only clearing a small “viewing window” is illegal and can impact an insurance claim if there is an accident.

Drivers also have to clear snow from the lights and licence plate, including on a trailer. And it’s recommended to remove snow or ice from the top of a car as it can fall across the windshield while driving.

READ MORE: The story of how half of Austria drove on the left and half on the right – for 20 years

Photo by Andreea Popa on Unsplash

Road gritting and snow clearing

Municipal governments are responsible for gritting and clearing snow on public roads.

The system in Austria works well with gritting trucks regularly maintaining roads throughout the winter. As a result, roads are rarely blocked due to snow or ice in residential areas or on main roads.

However, owners of property also have to chip in and are required to clear snow from pavements and footpaths within 3 metres of their property. If there are no footpaths, then the road must be cleared and gritted within one metre of the property. 

Weather forecasts

When driving during the winter months in Austria it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast in advance – especially if setting out on a long trip. 

If heavy snow or extremely cold temperatures are predicted then try to postpone the journey, if possible. But if you have to drive, pack a few essentials in case there are delays. 

Must-have items include drinking water, a flask of tea/coffee, a shovel for clearing snow, a warm coat, gloves, a torch and a mobile phone.

Winter weather can vary between regions in Austria, particularly in the Alps. But a little bit of planning can make a big difference to your journey.

Useful links

The Austrian Federal Government guide to driving in winter

Austria by road (travel guide)

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